The ubiquitous billboards and product labels for Korova Edibles, an Oakland marijuana confections manufacturer, feature a three-eyed cow and a mooing boast: “Unrivaled potency.”
Korova’s “20 dose” medical cannabis Black Bar chocolates are supercharged with 1,000 milligrams of THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, and the company’s new THC Blondie – a treat “packed with caramel chunks” and “covered in crushed pretzels” – has 10 50-milligram doses with a total punch of 500 milligrams.
Now state Department of Public Health potency limit recommendations for medical marijuana edibles threaten to upset Korova’s marketing strategy and could force the company to dramatically cut THC levels in its chocolates, cookies, pot brownies and pot-infused popcorn sold through more than 750 marijuana dispensaries and delivery services in California.
Under proposed guidelines, released last week, state officials recommended a limit of 100 milligrams per marijuana edible or package, with marked pieces – or doses – of 10 milligrams or less. While Korova could be the most notable company affected, the rules could force scores of cannabis manufacturers to change product lines and remove high-octane pot brownies from the legal sales market for consumers.
The regulations, to be discussed in public hearings in June in Santa Rosa and San Diego, wouldn’t impose any standards for home-baked pot brownies and marijuana edibles but are widely seen as potential guidelines for future recreational marijuana products expected to be on the market by 2018. The rules also would require packaging that doesn’t appeal to children and would prohibit marijuana from being infused into alcohol, nicotine or caffeine products.
The Department of Heath released the recommendations as part of a 117-page document proposing standards for cannabis manufacturers in California. In advocating for potency limits for marijuana edibles, the department declared that it was concerned about people ingesting – often unintentionally – far higher concentrations of THC than they can tolerate.
“The actual and potential toxicity of unintentional ingestion of high levels of cannabis containing products demonstrates the need to set THC limits in order to protect public health and safety,” the department said.
While cannabis advocates long have asserted that marijuana cannot cause a fatal overdose, health officials in other states have taken note of evidence of spikes in emergency room visits for children consuming pot treats and anecdotal reports of people of varied ages hallucinating or suffering panic attacks from consuming larger marijuana edible portions than they thought they could handle.
But Joe Gerlach, the CEO of Korova Edibles, said he fears that state regulators aren’t considering that many medical marijuana users – such as those with cancer, intractable pain or intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease – have developed a very high tolerance for THC and require potent edibles.